Fact Sheet FS542
Health experts agree that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is key to lowering your risk of developing chronic diseases, including certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. Yet, it can be difficult to figure out how much of a role fruit and vegetable juices should play in a healthy diet. While it's fine to make a place in your diet for juices, it's important to do your homework, shop carefully and choose wisely.
Fruits and vegetables contain a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients that experts agree promote health and protect against chronic disease. Except for the fiber, fruit and vegetable juices can contain similar levels of the same nutrients as their whole fruit and vegetable counterparts.
Fruit and vegetable juices are good sources of antioxidants and phytonutrients. The terms "phytonutrient" and "phytochemical" are used to describe those plant compounds that are thought to have antioxidant, immune boosting and other healthprotecting qualities. Phytonutrients include terpenes, carotenoids, limonoids, phytosterols and others.
Processing does affect the levels, bioavailablility and activity of phytonutrients and antioxidants in juices—but not always in a bad way. Apple juice, for example, loses most of the apple's antioxidant activity because the most nutrient-dense part of the apples is not used to make the juice...it's thrown away. The lycopene in tomato juice, on the other hand, is more bioavailable than in a fresh tomato, thanks to the heat and oil used to produce juice. Even hand squeezing makes a difference. Commercially squeezed orange juice and pomegranate juice contain more phytonutrients and antioxidants, respectively, than their hand-squeezed counterparts.
Juices are more calorie-dense and are a more concentrated source of simple sugars than whole fruits and vegetables…an important distinction. Juices also have less fiber and can be more expensive per serving than fruits and vegetables. High consumption of juice is linked to weight gain in some studies—but not in others. Still, health professionals recommend moderation. It's easier to add extra calories with juice than with whole fruits or vegetables, simply because you can drink, say, two glasses of orange juice more quickly than enjoying a single orange.
Similarly, those who take anti-blood clotting medications must be cautious of drinking too much juice that is prepared from foods rich in vitamin K (such as spinach and kale) to avoid food-medication interactions. Consumers with health conditions such as kidney disease, hypertension or diabetes should discuss the role of fruit juice in their daily meal plans with a physician and registered dietitian (RD).
Juice products fall into three major categories:
Whether you're buying a new car or a bottle of juice, it's important to know what you're getting for your money. Look for 100% fruit juice, but don't stop there. Some 100% juices are nutritionally superior to others, just as some fruits and vegetables are nutritionally superior to others. Read the food label and select more nutrient-dense juices…juices with higher percentages of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamins A and C and folate. Consider juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D, as well, to support healthy bones.
Know exactly which juices are used to make the product you buy by reading the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed from the most to least abundant on the ingredient list. If your 100% fruit juice lists apple juice as the first ingredient and pomegranate as the last, you're drinking much less pomegranate juice and mostly apple juice. Consequently, you won't reap the phytonutrient benefits that make pomegranates so appealing.
If you're juicing your own fruits and vegetables, experts recommend using a 3:1 vegetable-to-fruit ratio to maximize nutrients and flavor. Choose recipes that use nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits like kale, spinach, beet, bell pepper and citrus, and strive for colorful juice recipes, particularly red and green.
All juices contain water and sugar. If you're drinking 100% juice, the sugar is naturally occurring fructose. Juice drinks, on the other hand, are made with added sugars like high-fructose corn syrup. While your body won't differentiate between added and naturally occurring sugars, there may be more sugar and, consequently, more calories in juice drinks, depending on the amount of added sugar.
Including "quality" juices in your diet can be a healthy part of achieving your fruit and vegetable goals. But…just what is a "quality" juice? Depending on the fruits or vegetables they're made from, juices supply varying amounts of nutrients. Many juices contain little more than sugar and water. Others offer the same vitamins, minerals, and many of the same phytochemicals (although not the fiber) found in their corresponding fruit or vegetable.
Both the medical and nutrition communities agree that a "quality" juice is one that is 100% juice, as opposed to juice drinks or blends that contain less than 100% juice. Experts also agree that you should limit the amount of juice you drink – even if it is 100% juice. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that juice should be substituted for no more than one of the 5+ recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. (One juice serving is about 8 ounces for an adult, 4–6 ounces for a young child.) Both groups point out that juices lack the fiber and are higher in simple sugars than their whole fruit counterparts.
When considering the health benefits we typically associate with fruits and vegetables – protection against certain cancers and cardiovascular disease—enjoying a glass of OJ with your breakfast cereal or adding a can of vegetable juice to your lunch box could be a convenient way to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. And, these days, juices are often fortified with vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C and calcium to enhance their nutritional profile. The key, however, is to balance juice with fruits and vegetables:
Use these tips and our chart and you'll be off to a good start!
Is fruit juice dangerous for children? In reality, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are many other more important dangers to your child's health, but drinking too much fruit juice can be a problem.
According to the AAP, drinking too much juice can contribute to obesity, the development of cavities (dental caries), diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems, such as excessive gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
Among the recommendations of the AAP report, The Use and Misuse of Fruit Juice in Pediatrics, which are actually daily limits of how much fruit juice kids should drink, and not an actual recommendation to drink juice, are that:
|Juice||Vitamin A||Vitamin C||Potassium||Folate||Fiber||Phytochemicals|
|Name||May Protect Against|
|Apple||-||-||-||-||-||Anthocyanins, Quercetin||Cancer, Heart Disease|
|Cranberry||-||***||-||-||-||Anthocyanins, Tannins, Ellagic Acid||Cancer, Urinary Tract Infections|
|Grape (concord/purple)||-||-||-||-||-||Anthocyanins, Resveratrol||Cancer, Heart Disease|
|Grape (white)||-||-||-||-||-||Ellagic Acid||Cancer|
|Orange||-||***||*||*||-||Hesperetin, Monoterpenes||Cancer, Heart Disease|
|Pink Grapefruit||*||***||*||-||-||Lycopene, Beta-Carotene||Cancer, Heart Disease|
|Tangerine||*||***||*||-||-||Monoterpenes, Lutein||Still under study|
|Tomato||**||***||*||*||-||Lycopene, Beta-carotene||Cancer (In particular, prostate cancer), Heart Disease|
|Vegetable Juice (V-8)||***||***||*||*||-||Lycopene, Beta-carotene||Cancer (In particular, prostate cancer), Heart Disease|
Key: 8 ounces = *10–24% DV; **25–49% DV; ***50%+ DV
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